“If you would understand anything, observe its beginning and its development.”
And who is going to doubt Aristotle? With that in mind, let’s take a look at how this thing called file storage evolved into what is today the remarkable ability for even the most technically-challenged consumer to utilize solutions like ElephantDrive, a tool that pre-moon launch NASA would have envied.
It all started in 1951, when a little company called IBM (actually, they weren’t little even back then) began to use punch cards for data storage. The punch cards themselves were a “primitive” way to program computers, not store data, but if you wanted to back up what you programmed, you simply duplicated the punched cards and stored them in a safe place.
As programming became more complex, and the data more voluminous, punch cards were replaced by magnetic tape. If you google ”magnetic tape” today, you’re likely to come up with a product sold in office supply stores. That’s not what we’re talking about here. Rather, we’re referring to “A sequential storage medium used for data collection, backup and archiving.” Too complicated? Just think of an old-fashioned tape recorder, only with data on it instead of your feeble attempt to sound like Sam Cooke. Ten spools of magnetic tape could contain as much data as a million punch cards, so by the ‘60s, punched card storage was going the way of the dinosaur, and magnetic tape would be the storage medium of choice through most of the 1980s.
More importantly, the market began to realize that tape backup was a feasible way to eliminate that 100,000 square foot document storage warehouse.
So far, we’ve dealt with business use cases. The desktop revolution had yet to begin, although by the mid- ‘80s, the notion that you could actually have one of those computer “thingies” in your home was beginning to take hold. And this notion was driven by the same force that facilitated virtually every important development in computing over the last thirty years – the advancements in the manufacture of microprocessors. This led to the expansion of the computer universe, from the business computer room with the raised floor to the geek with a desktop PC in the room above the garage. And, from there, to the average non-technically savvy consumer.
The microprocessor evolution/revolution would lead to something else; the ability to do more things and the need to store more digital content. And more content to store would present the need for more and easier ways to backup that content. In Part 2, we’ll look at the next steps in the development of storage, and how these advancements brought us to where we are today.